High-energy Solar Particles to be Measured with New Instrument

NASA Goddard is the location of the new High-energy Ion Telescope (HIT), a solar energetic particle (SEP) detector. Critical to exploring our solar neighborhood with NASA’s Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP), messages are decoded in particles from the Sun and beyond our cosmic shield according to Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Solar energetic particles, or SEPs, are energetic charged particles, such as electrons and protons, traveling much faster than ambient particles in space plasma, at a fraction of the speed of light, making them relativistic. SEPs usually refer to protons. These particles can reach all regions of near-Earth space, including the lunar surface (with the exception of low-altitude and low-latitude Earth orbit where the Earth’s magnetic field is strong enough to form a protective barrier).

HIT will be shipped from NASA Goddard to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, MD where a group of engineers will begin installing it onto the IMAP spacecraft, the fourth of it’s kind to arrive at APL.

These particles play a critical role to space weather and the understanding transport of this high-energy radiation. The “northern lights” are produced by solar storms and are observed when storms of those particles reach the Earth. Solar energetic particles are some of the most hazardous of space weather and pose risks to the health and safety of astronauts, aircraft crew and space and ground based assets.